Pump that Septic, pumps out a septic tank using an International 7400 with a 3,200 gallon tank purchased from Imperial Industries

Pump that Septic, headquartered in Cassopolis, MI pumps out a septic tank using an

Septic tank pumping is an essential maintenance task to keep a wastewater system in order. But how much does it cost to pump a septic tank?

Septic tanks need to be pumped every two to three years to keep working properly. Done on time, the service costs a few hundred dollars. But left for decades, septic cleaning can turn into septic replacement and cost you $5,000 to $10,000.

Here are some important facts about septic tanks, including how they work.

Where the Waste Goes

Unlike an urban sewer system that runs wastewater into a central drainage system, septic tanks are a house-by-house system. Their capacity is based on the size of the home, and they are the ultimate destination for all of a house’s wastewater — from bathtubs, showers, sinks, toilets and washing machines.

Most tanks rely on gravity to work. Wastewater flows into the tank, which is buried in the ground outside the home, and water in turn is carried from the tank to a drainage field using sloped pipes.

How a Tank Works

When wastewater enters a septic tank, it naturally divides into three parts:

Solids sink to the bottom and form a sludge layer. Liquids stay in the middle and form a layer of mostly water. Oils and fat rise to the top and form a scum layer.

The liquid layer accounts for 90 percent of a tank’s capacity, meaning excess water use can affect the tank’s performance over time.





Ideally, water in a tank flows through in the course of several days while materials on the bottom are broken down by bacteria. Water is then carried through drain pipes to the drainage (or leach) field, where it is distributed into the soil. The size of the drainage field depends on the type of soil. Clay, for instance, holds a limited amount of water.

The sludge at a tank’s bottom requires periodic septic cleaning or pumping. Even the best bacteria can’t fully break down all organic material, meaning it will start to build up and take more of the tank’s space. If there’s not enough room for water, the sludge will start to back up into the leach field, a home’s pipes or may cause a tank failure.

Homeowners can clean out their septic tanks, but they will need to store the sludge for transport and safely dispose of it. Professional septic cleaners come with a tank truck that hooks up to the septic system and removes its contents, then transports it all safely off the property.

Average Septic Tank Pumping Cost

Angie’s List members who recently had septic tank cleaning performed reported paying an average of $270, with a general range of $245 to $295, not counting discounts many service providers offer to members.

Septic Tank Maintenance

There are several ways to keep cleaning costs lower and limit the chance of a broken tank:

  1. Create a diagram showing the home in relation to the tank, along with distances and depth.
  2. Knowing exactly where the tank is will let the homeowner tell the cleaner exactly where to dig and find the tank quickly in an emergency.
  3. Don’t park cars or build structures atop the tank, as this increases pressure and may cause a rupture.
  4. Don’t plant anything in the drainage field. Natural grass is the best choice.
  5. Watch what is put down the drain. Baby wipes, diapers and paper towels can clog pipes, while harsh chemicals may kill helpful sludge bacteria, resulting in a backup.

Going Pro

Call several contractors in the area for estimates, and check Angie’s List to find reputable providers. Ideally, look for a company that does tank maintenance in addition to septic pumping because they can to spot problems along with signs of wear and tear.

Read any agreement carefully. Where will they take the waste, and what will they do with it? While a low price or special deal may seem good upfront, fly-by-night companies may damage the tank when trying to drain it as quickly as possible.

To keep a septic tank in good working order, schedule cleanings every two to three years with a reputable provider.

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8 Responses

  1. Millie Hue says:

    It really helped when you said that we could find a good septic company by checking third-party websites and getting estimates. I think that is true because the testimonials of their previous customers can tell a lot. I will be following this advice because we needed our septic system checked. It has been producing foul odors around our house, and we don’t have any idea how to fix it. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Kenneth Gladman says:

    I try and tell my wife that the baby wipes she flushes are bad for the system. She needs to read this article and learn. I don’t want to have to have some emergency work done to fix any issues that it could cause.

  3. Sarah Smith says:

    My husband and I are looking into buying a new house and the one we would really like has a septic tank. He had heard that he could potentially save money by pumping the cesspool himself, but I am not entirely comfortable with him doing so. Your information that we will need to store the sludge and find a way to safely dispose of it makes me more inclined to hire a septic service to take care of this for us.

  4. Gary Puntman says:

    I agree that you should look for a company that will do septic tank pumping as well as other types of maintenance. I like that you said this will be best because they can spot any problems. I’ll have to find a company like that when I have my septic tank pumped.

  5. Mark Murphy says:

    I really appreciate your tip to avoid letting any harsh chemicals down your drain when you are flushing things! My wife and I recently had a baby, and there are a lot of toiletries that come with that. I will be sure to tell my wife that we should avoid flushing those!

  6. Taylor Anderson says:

    My uncle recently moved to a home with a septic tank, so he’s been wondering how to care for it. It was helpful when you mentioned that a septic tank should be pumped every two to three years. However, my uncle has 7 children, so should he get it pumped more often? Either way, thank you so much for explaining how often one should pump their septic tank.

  7. Sariah Meagle says:

    Our home smells awful and it’s coming from our yard where the septic tank is. It was explained here that it’s best not to park cars atop the tank for safety. Moreover, it’s recommended to hire professionals for quality septic tank pumping.

  8. Sam Li says:

    I like what you said about homeowners being able to clean out septic tanks themselves. However, contacting a reliable company is the first step towards getting a septic tank in the first place. I will be sure to contact such a company if I ever make the decision to install a septic tank system on my large property.

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